WHERE CULTURE COMES ALIVE
Sign off 2020 with a smile on your face and warm, fuzzy memories in your heart by planning a trip to Gujarat with its profusion of diverse cultural attractions and unique experiences.
There’s something about Gujarat that calls out to the travel enthusiast in all of us. Perhaps it’s the fact that the land is steeped in history. Or, maybe it’s the spectacular diversity of its landscape, given the fact that the topography flows seamlessly from the pristine white sands of the Rann of Kutch to the sprawling greens of Gir National Park and the undulating Aravallis.
It could even be its vibrant culinary canvas—the mind instantly conjures up delightful images of bright yellow khandvi and dhokla and comforting visuals of steaming hot dal dhokli and crispy fafda. But really, it’s Gujarat’s exceptionally expansive and colourful cultural tapestry that lures us here.
Now, with the country opening up and festive feels filling in the air, there’s no better time to set off in search of adventure. End 2020 on a high by bundling up your loved ones and escaping to the charming state of Gujarat. With its pleasant weather this time of the year, coupled with the fact that it is one of the country’s safest states, Gujarat makes for the perfect holiday destination for your very first getaway post lockdown. To help you make the most of your trip, we list an array of cultural attractions and sights you simply mustn’t miss out on and outline the best experiences that will have you reminiscing fondly for years to come.
STANDING TALL AND PROUD: THE STATUE OF UNITY
At twice the height of the iconic Statue of Liberty in New York, five times taller than the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, and even taller than China’s Spring Temple Buddha, Gujarat’s soaring Statue of Unity was built to pay homage to the first home minister of independent India, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, and inspire generations to follow his principles of inclusive growth, and good governance. A role model for unity and statesmanship and, he was responsible for uniting all 562 princely states of the country to build the Republic of India.
Inaugurated on the 143rd birth anniversary of the Ironman of India, on October 31, 2018 by Prime Minister Narenda Modi, the imposing statue at 182 meters, is now the tallest in the world, and has joined the elite club of man-made structures that can be seen from space alongside the Great Pyramids of Giza and the Great Wallof China.
The architectural marvel is built on Sadhu Bet at Kevadia, an island in the vicinity of the Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada riverbed, and is set against the backdrop of the magnificent Vindhyachal and Satpura mountain ranges. Designed by Noida-based sculptor Ram V Sutar, who studied over 2,000 photographs before starting work on it, the statue is clad in almost 2,000 tones of bronze, making it capable of withstanding earthquakes and wind velocities of up to 60 m/sec. But what makes it particularly unique is the fact that it was completed in a record breaking time period of just 33 months!
Off ering visitors a unique experience, high-speed elevators inside the statuetake you up to the observation deck at the chest of the statue, at a height of 135m. With a capacity to accommodate 200 visitors at a time, the Statue of Unity also off ers panoramic views of the Sardar Sarovar and Garudeshwar reservoirs. At the base of the statue, a museum dedicated to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel educates visitors on his unforgettable contributions to the Indian independence movement.
As soon as the sun sets, the town of Kevadia undergoes a transformation of sorts as the entire stretch of areas surrounding the Statue of Unity lights up with vibrant motifs, the statue itself at the heart of it radiating a magnificent yellow glow. Word of advice: whatever you do, don’t miss out on the spectacular nighttime laser light and sound show that narrates the story of the unifi cation of India.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Getting there: The Statue of Unity is located 90 kms from Vadodara, 150 kms from Surat, and 200 kms from Ahmedabad. The nearest railway station and airport are both located in Vadodara. However, one can easily visit the architectural gem from Ahmedabad and Surat, with both cities having railway station and airport connectivity, and being within a two-to four-hour driving distance from the statue.
- The Statue of Unity opens at 8:00 AM and closes at 6:00 PM from Tuesday to Sunday.
- The Laser Light and Sound Show can be viewed from 7:30 PM onwards daily, except on Mondays.
- The Statue of Unity is closed on Mondays for maintenance work
SIGHTSEEING IN THE VICINITY
A WALK IN THE PARK
For nature-lovers, the opportunity to get up close and personal with a wide variety of plants and flowers in an array of theme-based gardens in the vicinity of the statue, promises to be an enriching experience. At the Arogya Van, a wide range of herbal plants raises awareness of the role played by plants in Indian medicine, while The Butterfly Garden will take your breath away, with its astonishing assortment of more than 70 species of butterflies and 150 species of nectar and larval host plants. There’s also Ekta Nursery—a botanical garden, comprises a huge collection of beautiful flora and fauna and organises live demonstrations such as a Bonsai-making training. For a more unique experience, visit the Cactus Garden—a captivating landscape of colourful cacti and succulent plants that houses over six lakh plants spread across 450 species. Here, you can even witness cool Bonsai displays and get a glimpse into the art of the bamboo craft.
Proceed to Vishwa Van—conceptualised by Prime Minister Modi, this garden boasts an impressive collection of herbs, shrubs, and trees native to seven continents to celebrate the theme of ‘Unity in Bio-diversity’ in a global context. If you’re a flower child, you’ll love strolling through the Valley of Flowers (Bharat Van) along the banks of the Narmada, where more than 300 varieties of flowering plants will see you empty your camera roll as you go crazy clicking countless pictures. But, come dusk, make your way to the Unity Glow Garden—a unique theme park that comes alive with a glittering display of installations, figures and optical illusions lit up in full glory.
CHILDREN’S DAY OUT
Clubbing education with fun is always a win-win situation; and Kevadia offers up a number of such activities to ensure your little ones stay entertained. A visit to the Children Nutrition Park—a unique theme park envisioned by Prime Minister Modi near the Sardar Sarovar Dam – provides a balanced view to children on healthy eating habits and nutritional values based on the theme of ‘Sahi Poshan, Desh Roshan’. With extensive use of state-of-the-art technology, the main attraction here is the Nutri Train that runs on a 600m-long track, equipped with interactive games and activities.
Next up is the Jungle Safari, a one-of-a-kind zoological park replete with exotic animals that also flaunts a walk-through aviary that harbours a selection of the finest indigenous birds from across the world. Finally, we arrive at the Dino Trail – here, children get a lesson in history as they marvel at incredible replicas of endemic dinosaurs that roamed the earth millions of years ago. Don’t miss out on a nature trail amidst the forests of Vindhyachal, which will teach your young ones about the mighty Rajasaurus Narmadensis that roamed the woodlands of the Narmada valley centuries ago.
FOR THE THRILL OF IT
Adventure and outdoor enthusiasts will be in for a treat at the prospect of being able to camp and hike beside the tranquil waters of the Narmada and amidst the verdant thickets of Khalvani. Indulge in some bird-watching or join a forest trail if you’re up for it; but, if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, opt to partake in adrenaline-heavy adventure sports like river rafting, trekking, and rock climbing. But, if you’re a water baby, make it a point to visit the gorgeous Zarwani waterfalls. Between Khalvani and Zarwani, choose from an array of exciting activities – go ziplining through hilly terrains to witness first-hand the striking beauty of the Vindhyachal and Satpura or set out on a leisurely cycling tour.
SHOP AND EAT
The Ekta Mall, spread over a 35,000 sq ft area, is your one-stop-shop for a therapeutic shopping experience. Here, traditional textile showrooms show off and celebrate the beauty and bounty of Indian handicrafts. For cool souvenirs and memorabilia – including replicas of the Statue of Unity – stop by the SOU souvenir shop. If you’re feeling peckish after a long day of touring, indulge in delicious local bites at The Ekta and the SOU food courts. It’s also worth making a pit-stop at the Amul Café – you are in Gujarat after all!
STAY IN STYLE
From deluxe to budget stays, accommodations are available in abundance in and around the Statue of Unity. For a luxurious stay, book an elegantly – furnished tent at either Tent City 1 or 2. Both properties offer a wide range of amenities, including luxury tented accommodations, an assortment of food and beverage options, and bespoke experiences. So whether you want to bond over a game of badminton, go on a cycling tour or partake in a nature trail, everything is possible at Tent City.
Keen on waking up to uninterrupted views of the towering stature? Shreshtha Bharat Bhavan (Ramada Encore) is your best bet. Stay in one of 52 chic rooms that offer scenic views of the Narmada and relish traditional meals at the hotel’s restaurants, Sankalp and Saffron. Closest to the Statue of Unity is the 200 – room Sardar Sarovar Resort. Offering up unique facilities such as themed restaurants, large banquet halls, a food court boasting international chains, a large swimming pool, and a spa, this resort is the ideal choice for those travelling in larger groups.